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On January 20, 2001, George W. Bush will be sworn in as the 43rd president of the United States. When I stopped to think about it, it seemed pretty amazing that only forty-two men have filled the office before him. Who were these men? How did they shape our country? To answer these questions, and many more, I found the following five sites.
Grolier Online presents ” a celebration of the history of the nation’s highest office” culled from a number of their encyclopedias. Beginning at a third-grade level (and progressing to high school and beyond), you’ll find biographies, quick fact browsers and articles on topics such as unsuccessful presidential hopefuls. Best clicks are the Presidential Gallery of video and sound clips, and the three multiple-choice quizzes. “Who was the last president to be born in a log cabin?”
The American President
“Welcome to a new, comprehensive guide to the presidents of the United States. Written as a collaborative project between teachers, leading historians, and political scientists, these biographies are specifically designed to be valuable to students, teachers, and scholars.” This site was created to accompany last year’s PBS documentary series of the same name. You’ll find great stuff for school reports under Presidential History Resources, but don’t miss The War Room Campaign Simulation Game (from the front page.) “You’re the hottest campaign manager around and you’re ready to join an intense battle to elect the leader of the free world!”
National Geographic: Inside the White House
“First day on the job! You got the nomination, you campaigned, you won. Then you took the oath of office, made the first speech of your administration, and danced the night away. But now it’s morning in America — time to face the Oval Office. It’s YOUR chance to be President of the United States. Let’s see how you do.” Other fun clicks include silly things White House children have done (go to Kids) or the clickable map of the White House neighborhood (choose Mapping.) Teachers will like the grade-level classroom activities found under Learn More.
“There is much to learn about the presidency by studying the men who occupied the office. All have been immensely different from one another. Woodrow Wilson, the peacemaker; Kennedy, the Cold Warrior; Jimmy Carter, the engineer; ‘Silent Cal’ Coolidge and the bellicose Theodore Roosevelt. We’ve had Richard Nixon, the anti-communist and Ronald Reagan, the actor turned politician. All of the characters are complex and all of their stories surprising. Their lives and careers provide us a panoramic view of America.” The Presidents Web site draws on the research done for eight PBS television specials portraying the seven aforementioned presidents and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
World Book: U.S. Presidents and the Presidency
Well-written and nicely presented. What else would you expect from World Book? The site is divided into sections on Office of the President, History of the Presidency, Office of the Vice President, and Portraits of the First Ladies. You’ll also find related Web links and multiple-choice quizzes on the presidents, the vice-presidents and the first ladies. “Who was the first president elected by a margin of only one electoral vote?” I got this one wrong. You’ll have to try the quiz yourself to find the right answer.